The Presidential Medal Series is among the United States Mint’s most
historically important and sustained medals programs.
The series originated in 1792 and played an important role in the
nation’s expansion westward. The British, French, and Spanish had long
courted favor with American Indian leaders by giving gifts, especially
medals. Leaders in the new U.S. government, especially Secretary of
State Thomas Jefferson, thought it symbolically important to continue
presenting medals as a means of maintaining peaceful relations with
Several styles of silver medals were created while President
Washington was in office. Obverses depicted President Washington and
an Indian sharing a peace pipe. Reverses featured the Great Seal of
the United States.
In 1801 after President Jefferson took office, the U.S. Mint
produced the first Peace medal to bear a portrait of an American
president. The obverse depicts a profile of Jefferson, facing left.
The reverse bears the inscription PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP, symbolized by
the image of a handshake and a crossed tomahawk and peace pipe.
Peace medals were presented to Indian chiefs on their visits to
Washington and on important occasions such as the signing of a treaty.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark distributed a large number of
Jefferson Indian peace medals on their 1804 to 1806 expedition to the
The Peace Medal series became the Presidential Medal series after
President Andrew Johnson left office in 1869. The obverse of each
medal has continued to bear a portrait of the incumbent president.
The Presidential series is produced in 3-inch and 1.312-inch sizes.
A 3-inch, high-relief gold version is presented to the president and
bronze replicas of both sizes are struck for sale to the public.
In the 1970s the Mint began offering the 1.312-inch medals in an
album containing the entire series current to the new president.
Until 2007, when production of Presidential dollar coins began,
Presidential medals were the only way to collect official medallic
tributes to U.S. presidents. Since Presidential dollar coins will not
be struck bearing the image of any living presidents, the medal series
still is the only way to obtain all of the presidential medals. No
Presidential medal has yet been struck for President Obama.